Netflix has been on a tear in recent years, with original programming such as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black proving to be huge hits. Netflix looks to continue this hot streak with an animated adaptation of the long running Castlevania video game series. The Castlevania series has been around since 1986, with over 20 game entries. It has been made available in some way, shape or form on almost every console known to man and is rightly heralded as one of the greatest video game franchises in history, so no pressure Netflix.
So the question on everybody’s lips is of course, “Is it any good?” The short answer is yes, absolutely yes, Castlevania is fantastic. Netflix have seamlessly blended the video game series iconic mythology and style with cutting edge animation and superb voice acting. In fact, my one gripe with Castlevania is that there simply isn’t enough of it yet. With only four short episodes available in this first season, Castlevania left me hungry for more. But although our time with Castlevania is tragically short, it makes up for its length with superb storytelling and the promise of even more bloody action in future installments.
Written by comic book mastermind Warren Ellis, Castlevania is set in the fictional town of Gresit and the surrounding countryside. This moody, Eastern European inspired town provides a suitably Gothic and dreary setting for this medieval horror story. After incurring the wrath of the reclusive and deadly Dracula, a horde of bloodthirsty monsters is unleashed upon the town.
Castlevania makes it very clear that this series is not meant for kids in these next few scenes, as the monsters brutally slaughter the fleeing townsfolk with ruthless efficiency. Castlevania does not shy away from the gory and adult themes of its source material, heads are impaled on pikes, limbs are cut off, and steaming guts are spilled across the mud-slicked floor. By showing the carnage and chaos of combat, Castlevania makes sure you take its monsters seriously.
This is where our story truly begins, with the introduction of Trevor Belmont. Trevor is a wandering warrior from a long line of monster hunters. After several fateful encounters with the locals of Gresit, Trevor finds himself swept up in the war between Dracula and humanity. The character is one of Castlevania’s greatest strengths, with Trevor immediately endearing himself to the audience with his roguish charm and sardonic sense of humor. Voice actor Richard Armitage (The Hobbit) succeeds in giving him an incredibly likeable quality. Trevor is also the source of many of the shows best action scenes, as his whip and short sword make quick work of his enemies.
The rest of the cast don’t slouch either, with Graham McTavish making the most of his limited screen time as everyone’s favourite bloodsucker, Dracula. Castlevania manages to create an aura of mystery and danger around Dracula; he smoulders with barely contained fury in every scene. Although he doesn’t have nearly as much time to shine as many of the other characters, his presence is felt in every scene. I look forward to seeing more of the character in later installments.
Castlevania truly shines in its action scenes. As both human and monsters clash in brutal and bloody combat, the animation team truly outdoes themselves. The animation is smooth and seamless as Trevor dances around his enemies, slashing and whipping them with lightning speed. The sound design also does a great job at conveying the impact of its combat, the sound as steel clashes against steel helps to show how intense the combat scenes are. The true highlight of the entire show is towards the final minutes of the fourth episode however, as two incredibly dangerous combatants clash in an absolutely breath-taking fight.
Castlevania is a true adaptation in every sense of the word. It faithfully recreates the style and tone of its source material and provides a compelling story to fans of the series and newbies alike. If you enjoy great action, likeable characters and beautiful animation, this is the show for you. Now if anyone needs me, I’ll be in my coffin waiting for season two.